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Endgame Spoilers: The ‘Black Widow’ Movie Has a Problem

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Marvel was hailed for its decision to finally give fans what they had been asking for: a “Black Widow” movie starring Scarlett Johansson. This is a movie fanboys and fanwomen can get behind with little controversy. The only problem is (spoilers ahead) –

Black Widow is dead.

ICYMI, (and with a global box office take heading beyond $2 billion, how could you?): Black Widow sacrificed herself to get the Soul Stone, so that Hawkeye could go back to his family. This exchange is permanent according to the paragon of truth known as the Red Skull (Do we really trust his word on it and how did he get to be an expert after being sent to Vormir by the Tesseract?). Hulk Banner tried to bring her back with his snap and failed. So, as far as anyone knows, Black Widow is dead forever and ever. Amen.

Of course, permanent in the comic book world is really more like “until pent up demand will sell a whole lot of comics with the right story line.) And Marvel has a problem with keeping its characters dead. Just ask Agent/Director Phil Coulson (I thought his name was “agent”), or any of the dozens of characters brought back in “Avengers: Endgame.” So, what will the “Black Widow” movie be about?

The Prequel

Let’s assume that Black Widow is dead and not coming back. That makes the “Black Widow” movie a prequel – or, as I like to call prequels, a movie with no stakes. We already know what happens to Natasha Romanoff in the future. We know she joins the Avengers and ends up sacrificing herself for the greater good. We spent the last decade learning who Romanoff is now, not knowing much about her past.

This type of “Black Widow” movie would have the same problem that “Solo” had. It’s playing with a character that everyone knows and loves. In “Solo,” there wasn’t enough character turning to explain how Han went from someone who loves a woman to someone who is only out for himself. (Maybe future movies would’ve explored this arc, but those look to be defunct as do many of the other Star Wars movies that were planned.” To succeed, the prequel would have to fully explain how Romanoff went from U.S.S.R. super spy to S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, especially after going through extensive brainwashing and the cultural brainwashing that comes from living in any society.

You could write her change in heart and nature while comparing it to the fall of the U.S.S.R., but this type of political and historical action will need a context that many people today, even those who lived through it, simply lack. It’s a risky proposition fraught with peril and landmines.

A prequel would also necessitate another landmine situation. Scarlett Johansson would have to go through the same de-aging process as Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Michael Douglas, and to a lesser extent, Michelle Pfeiffer. In the body-positive age, will anyone be happy with a de-aged ScarJo? No one’s made a bug deal about it with the men or with Pfeiffer, but done incorrectly, it could have a negative impact greater than the trolls that regularly come out to jeer Marvel’s superwomen.

While it’s unlikely that any titular character is going to die in his or her own movie, the possibility of Black Widow’s death in a prequel is zero. Prequels, like flashbacks, have no weight. They have no stakes. Instead of advancing the story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they stop it dead in its tracks. “Captain Marvel” was well-received, but knowing she was in Endgame took away some of the power the movie could’ve had. “Black Widow” would suffer in the same way. The film will be like watching a biography or documentary made by a company that usually deals in high stakes movies.

The Alternate Timeline

It’s an alternate timeline Black Widow! This could certainly be more entertaining to watch as Romanoff gets plucked out of time and transported to the present day that requires her specific set of skills. This “Black Widow” could more fully develop Marvel’s version of time travel and the problems it causes. It could even be set up as part of the story line that Black Widow’s death and some seriously negative side effects. (What if she’s the glue for a team that otherwise won’t work together and fails at their mission?) The story could really be anything with an alternate timeline Romanoff.

The problem with this “Black Widow” movie is that people are used to Marvel films and television (even the Netflix shows) taking place in the same timeline. That’s what built up the colossal success of “Endgame.” While some shows may be moving in that direction (i.e. Disney+’s “Loki”), the movies could have a problem keeping their audiences and their tie-ins to each other. Marvel could come up with a designation to separate out the timelines, but it could get messy for quickly and destroy the cohesiveness that has allowed the MCU to flourish on the movie screen. Fortunately, fan sites can help keep people straight on which movie goes where.

The Soul Stone

The Soul Stone is said to trap the souls exchanged for its use inside a pocket dimension or alternate reality. Exploring this world would definitely be interesting and move the story forward. Perhaps, because Black Widow sacrificed herself, the Soul Stone reacts differently to her. It may be the reason she’s able to return, proving the Red Skull wring in the process. The self-sacrifice and its purity in act and intention would explain why Gamora can’t escape, as could her child form. However, it’s possible for her child form to play the role of mentor and guide for Black Widow.

The souls trapped in the stone could be like crabs in a bucket. They keep each other trapped, and Black Widow will have to figure out how to fix that. In this scenario Gamora could be used to betray Black Widow when its revealed that Gamora has been sabotaging Romanoff from the beginning. The Soul Stone doesn’t sound like a good entity if it wants to trap souls. In the case of Gamora, it may be that the longer a soul spends in the stone, the more corrupt it becomes.

If Marvel still wants to include an origin story for Black Widow, it can use the Soul Stone alternate reality as a place made up of the person’s past experiences. This could be a sort of health, especially if the Soul Stone gains its powers through the torture of souls (or through their screams, like Monstropolis in “Monsters Inc.” before they found the true power of a child’s laughter).

Marvel continues to surprise and wow audiences, but even the best of studios is going to make a misstep. Let’s hope “Black Widow” isn’t the next one.

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An ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Review Two Weeks Later? Stick it to the MSM! Like, Comment and Share

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I got fed up with the MSM who decided it was okay to post reviews, articles and spoiler photos on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and throughout the opening weekend of “Avengers: Endgame” because it hadn’t been released everywhere, and I had no choice but to look at the headlines (and thus read them) and possibly learn spoilers, which sucks! Thanos demanded their silence, and the stars pleaded their case not to ruin the Endgame. Main stream media went ahead and did so anyway. So, this review has been consciously published two weeks after the Russian release date as a nose thumbing to the unbelievers who think you won’t like, comment or share an “Avengers: Endgame” review after it’s been in the theaters for a little bit.

I have more faith in you, true believer, and I believe that you will like, comment and share this review because you don’t want future movies to be spoiled by fast, first and spoiler MSM. Of course, that means I should write a damn good spoiler-free review… I’m not sure I have that in me… Well, if I can’t protect the sanctity of the spoiler-free review, I might as well avenge it.

First of all, you have to hand it to the people in charge of the marketing campaign; they didn’t give anything away in the trailers. It’s amazing that they were able to mine the first 30 minutes and come up with interesting trailers that kept the movie under wraps.

Starting with Hawkeye was essential. Hawkeye is the easiest way for the average person to engage in a film full of superheroes who are super smart, super strong and generally just fantastic. Showing him at home with his family at the moment of the snap, reminds everyone what’s at stake.

The end battle scene was beautiful, and war shouldn’t be beautiful. It wasn’t the first battle scene of the movie, but it was the least surprising. Still, it brought up all the feels, and somehow didn’t feel like a copout. Maybe because it had been set up over the course for several movies, maybe because the main characters all get their spot in the limelight, maybe because it was just so well done… whatever the reason, that battle was cinematic eye candy for this generation.

The best reveal also had the best character change. The women stand up and out in battle. But where “Avengers: Endgame” excels is where every Marvel movie has excelled when they’ve done it right – in the characters. This story is a character-driven narrative built on special effects rather than special effects with some plot things thrown in. Maybe it’s time to revisit the Endgame again and find out what you missed.

Sock it to those major media outlets that posted spoiler-y reviews, headlines and photos proclaiming the knowledge of what that last scene for the Hulk meant or for Iron Man of for Captain America, or who was that lone kid, or where did Captain Marvel go, or why the “Back to the Future” time theory won’t work for Endgame, all of which couldn’t be avoided because they showed up in Yahoo! News feeds, twitter feeds, Facebook timelines and other social media. Share this post with your friends and show the media that you can be trusted to click on their Avengers articles even a couple weeks after the movie debuts.

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2 Episodes in: ‘Dead to Me,’ Human Psychology and Guilt

The trailer is here to prevent you from seeing any spoilers. “Dead to Me” is a slow-burning, smart series that includes surprise reveals and twists you may or may not expect. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t spoil it for yourself.  Go watch it. There is swearing and discussion about issues particularly related to the female experience; both these things should recommend the show to you because they help make it funny, tragic, and create biting irony.

When Judy (Linda Cardellini) befriends Jen (Christina Applegate) at a grief group, it seems sincere enough. She’s a little too eager and overzealous, but people grieve in different ways. This may just be the way Judy deals with her grief.

However, Judy’s secret casts a shadow on her interactions with Jen, even as they become fast friends. Judy was the driver in the hit and run that killed Jen’s husband. The guilt she feels has led her to try to do something for Jen and her family to make their lives better. Through her actions, camera angles and the acting skills of Cardellini, it also becomes clear that Judy wants to be caught. She doesn’t want to live with her guilt, but she doesn’t want to go to jail, either. The only problem is that she doesn’t know how to relieve her guilt without putting her at risk of going to prison.

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Marvel Fans Shouldn’t Care about Final Box Office of ‘Avengers: Endgame’

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The biggest debate in the movie community is where will “Avengers: Endgame” end its box office run. Will it finish in the top spot worldwide and domestic, or will it finish second? Some movie writers have gone so far to call out the manipulations of misleading articles saying that the box office for “Avengers: Endgame” could never reach the domestic gross of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” or the global box office of “Avatar” if the numbers are adjusted for inflation. Comparing today’s box office with 2015’s take for “Force Awakens” and 2009’s gross for “Avatar” is a bit of mathematical chicanery according to critics. “Endgame” is only ranked #36 domestically when adjusted for inflation.

However, whatever ranking “Endgame” finishes with shouldn’t matter. In fact, true Marvel and movie fans shouldn’t be concerned about the final numbers. These movies are so huge, even if they don’t look that great when compared to the adjusted for inflation numbers, because they are currently making money hand over fist for the company that owns their creative rights: Disney. People who love Marvel films have nothing to worry about, even if one of the films underperforms. Instead, Marvel fans need to worry about the other movie properties that aren’t going to rake in the types of numbers these tentpoles do. Those are the films that Marvel fans should rally behind.

I’m not talking DC films or the other big budget releases that may fall into the Box Office hole never to recover (i.e. “Solo”). I’m talking about genuinely small budget films that are amazing. Films like “Hidden Figures,” “BlackKklansman,” or “The Imitation Game” have something to say about our world and are great entertainment to boot. They may get recognition at the Awards ceremonies, but they need box office recognition in order for movie goers to see more films like them on the big screen.

Rather than seeing the next big tent pole five times, or even three time, put that third movie ticket behind a film that isn’t getting much love from the advertisers or from the movie industry. Check out an indie film, a documentary, or even a film that was just overlooked because of the hype behind the big tent pole films. This will help bring more diversity to the movie screen. Creatives will have more opportunity to step away from the ordinary that big budgets have become, and you’ll have a richer life experience. Every time, you see a film, you vote with your dollars showing what you want more of. Don’t let superheroes be the only films we have an opportunity to watch.

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The NeverEnding Story: The Great and Terrible Power of the Imagination

In 1984, “the NeverEnding Story” posited that human imagination was being destroyed by a power that brought “the Nothing” on Fantasia. The hench-Gmork doesn’t reveal the power that is behind him before Atreyu kills him. Fantasia is saved by the wishes and imagination of one little boy and his Luck Dragon.

How would it fair now when the dark side of the imagination is called upon to foster fear and create lies? Imagination is a double-edged sword. For as much as someone can imagine all the good things that can happen, it is easier and far more likely for people to imagine all of the bad things that could happen. You can imagine being rich and poor, but what do you imagine more often?

Imagination is a tool that you can harness or let run wild. You have to choose the scenarios that you will give power over your life. The more you think about the bad things, the more power they will have. The more you think about the good, the more power they will gain, and each will manifest itself in Fantasia and in your life.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” Join us on our Patreon page!

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2 Episodes in: ‘Dead to Me’ and the M-word

To avoid any spoilers for “Dead to Me,” I have intentionally kept the subject of this post out of the title. That may mean fewer page views, but ultimately, it means better viewer service. If you’ve already seen “Dead to Me,” then feel free to scroll past the trailer. If you haven’t, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. Go watch it and then come back to this article. You can book mark it. It’ll be here when you come back.

According to the Mayo Clinic, between 10 and 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Miscarriages are rarely addressed in American culture. It’s almost as if superior medical practices and technology have made miscarriages a thing of the past. As an overlooked problem, and one that is often attributed to the woman and her lack of womanhood, it may be difficult for women to find a place that can help deal with the emotions a miscarriage may instill.

Judy (Linda Cardellini) has had five miscarriages, but this isn’t sufficient enough loss for some members of the grief support group to accept her after she has lied about her fiancé. It’s clear from a flashback that Judy’s grief comes from another place as well, but the group members don’t know about it. They just know she lied.

Not everyone handles their grief in the same way, and when something as personal as a fifth miscarriage is the cause, the woman may displace her feelings and choose to deceive to get the help she needs without exposing the reality of her situation. “Dead to Me” does a beautiful job of dealing with this emotional situation, touchy subject, and the psychology that comes with it.

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Who Has the Better Fans: Marvel or Star Wars?

As “Avengers: Endgame” prepares to fall short of the domestic box office total of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” we should ask who has the better movie fans. Are Star Wars fans better than Marvel fans?

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Episode 5: ‘The Twilight Zone’ Walking Distance

You can’t go home again. People try to return home, to their past, to their roots, but life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, however, you do have to find its memory to improve your life today. Martin Sloan arrives near his home town and walks right into “the Twilight Zone” and his 11th summer. Once he realizes when he is, he tries to find his younger self, Marty, and reconnect with his mother and father.

The consequences are drastic and enervating, but his father comes to Martin to return his wallet. Dad knows who the older Martin is, but he urges Martin to leave. There’s only one summer per customer and this summer belongs to Marty, who shouldn’t have to share it.

Dad hypothesizes that Martin is wrong. Maybe, there are calliopes and merry-go-rounds near Martin, but he hasn’t been able to see them because he’s been too focused on the past and looking backwards. Dad says that Martin needs to start looking forward in his current life to enjoy his future.

Like Martin, we need to live in the present to enjoy the future. We can look to the past to draw strength, but it would be foolish to attempt to go back there… because you can’t go home again, even in “the Twilight Zone.”

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7 Episodes in: ‘Instant Hotel,’ Creativity and the Power of Critique

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It doesn’t take any special qualifications to be rated one of the top one percent of TripAdvisor raters. The only thing you really have to do is write a lot of reviews about places you’ve been. You don’t need to have any expertise in what you’re writing about, you don’t have to take into account anything but your own opinion. There are no other qualifications for being a reviewer.

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2 Episodes In: ‘Dead to Me’

When Jen (Christina Applegate) goes to a grief counseling circle, Judy (Linda Cardellini) tries too hard to become her friend. Jen holds onto her anger at her husband’s killer, a hit and run driver, and she is left alone with her two boys. Judy comes across as flaky, weird and possibly crazy. She says she lost her fiancé eight weeks ago.

“Dead to Me” deals with grief and other social issues. When the twist is revealed, it’s not because it’s obvious; it’s because of the acting skills of Cardellini and possibly the director’s skills.

There’s only one way this series can end, but much like watching a train wreck, you won’t be able to look away as the characters become more entwined and make choices that, while poor, make sense in what we as viewers know about the situation. The acting is great. Cardellini and Applegate make for an odd couple that fit just right. The situations are funny, and the dialogue is spot on. The characters are sympathetic and the script is well-written.

Don’t be put off by the stated subject matter of the series. “Dead to Me” is funny, smart and deserves to be in queue and binged at the first possible moment. Discover something you didn’t know you were missing.